12 Days


Challenging - Strenuous

trip cost

from $3995 pp

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12 Days

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Challenging - Strenuous

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trip cost

from $3995 pp

Self-Guided Trip

our walk experts

  • Overview
  • Highlights
  • Itinerary
  • Inclusions
  • Exclusive Guide
  • similar walks


The Kyoto and Koyasan Trip

You will begin your journey exploring Kyoto, a traditional and beautiful city, then travel to the mountaintop village of Koyasan – an important destination for pilgrims on the Kumano Kodo | Continue on to hike the full length of the Nakahechi Trail

The trails of Kumano Kodo are a series of ancient pilgrimage routes, dating back over 1000 years, in Japan’s beautiful Kii Peninsula, an area also strongly associated with nature worship. At one time Japan’s imperial family and former emperors made the pilgrimage trips from Kyoto to the shrines of Kumano, one of Japan’s most sacred sites. We also combine the Kumano Kodo with a visit to Koyasan, home to 115 temples on a venerated Buddhist mountain and a chance to stay in an active Buddhist monastery.

The Kumano Kodo is a journey through a thousand years of Buddhist history and offers a window into traditional Japan that contrasts strongly with its hyper-modern cities. The Kumano Kodo’s rugged, forested mountains, quiet rural valleys, rivers and waterfalls provide a spectacular backdrop for hikers. The seasonal contrasts of cherry blossom in the spring and rich autumn foliage inject wonderful colour along the hiking route. Arriving at your destination each day the traditional local guesthouses offer reviving onsens and wonderful local food.

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Get Ready For

  • Explore Kyoto, the culture and historical heart of the country
  • Visit temples, shrines and traditional gardens
  • Stay at a Japanese Buddhist temple
  • Learn about traditional daily rituals, join a spiritual ceremony


The Kyoto and Koyasan Trip

Week 1
Day 1

Make your way to the historic city of Kyoto. This fascinating city was once the capital of Japan and the residence of emperors for over 1000 years. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have some time to explore before your 6pm orientation with our local guide. This is a great opportunity to get some local advice on navigating the city, insight as to the best times to visit the places you’re most interested in, some ideas on other places you may be unaware of, dinner recommendations and numerous other handy tips.  (Note: if you are arriving late this evening, your orientation can be moved to 8am tomorrow)

Day 2

Today you are free to explore this wonderful city. You may like to wander along the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove following the path through this natural forest of bamboo. Perhaps visit some of Japan’s most iconic attractions, the Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji), Kiyomizudera Temple or stroll along the Philosopher’s Path.

Meals: B

Day 3

There are many interesting and fun things you can choose to do today depending on your interests. Kyoto is a great city to explore on a bike, or you might prefer to wander through some museums or galleries or join a traditional tea ceremony.  Maybe you’d rather spend some time shopping.

Meals: B

Day 4

Today you will make your way by train to the temple mountain of Koyasan. This secluded town is surrounded by the eight peaks of Mt Koya and said to resemble a lotus flower. You take a funicular railway up the steep sides of Koyasan and then a short bus ride which will drop you near your temple lodging.

In Koyasan you will have a unique opportunity to stay in a Japanese Buddhist temple and be part of the daily rituals and spiritual life of Koyasan. You will have a comfortable room and be served vegetarian Buddhist cuisine, Shojin Ryori. ‘Shojin’ is a Buddhist term that refers to asceticism in pursuit of enlightenment, and ‘ryori’ means cooking. There are surprising tastes and not only is it delicious but good karma too!

Meals: D

Day 5

This morning you will have a unique opportunity to take part in a Buddhist morning ceremony – the rich colours, smells of incense and rhythmical chants of the monks are enchanting. Afterwards, a walk around Koyasan with its 115 temples is a must. Be sure to visit Kongobuji, the head temple of Shingon Buddhism, the stunning vermilion Konpon Daito and Daimon, the majestic entrance gate to this mountain complex.

Perhaps the most interesting of them all is Okunoin, which has at its centre the mausoleum to Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect and one of Japan’s most significant religious figures. This is set in a giant cypress forest surrounded by 300,000 graves of his followers and is an awesome sight especially if you walk it at night time when the lonesome paths are lit by stone lanterns – very eerie! There are also beautiful day walks around Koyasan if you feel like stretching your legs.

Meals: B D

Day 6

After the morning ceremony and breakfast, you will have time to continue exploring the village of Koyasan or perhaps join the monks for a meditation session. You will leave Mt Koya before midday and travel by a series of short train journeys across the peninsula southwards to Kii-Tanabe. The railway line here parallels the coast and avoids the steep mountainous interior.

Kii-Tanabe is the gateway town to the Imperial Route of the Kumano Kodo and a city surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on one side and mountains on the other. The town is also home to the Tanabe Tourist Information Center – your tour orientation will be scheduled with the staff here. This evening is free for you to explore the town – enjoy great atmosphere at the Ajikoji Restaurant and Entertainment District, and perhaps stroll down to the Ogigahama Beach for sunset views.

Meals: B

Day 7

It is an early morning start today and after checking out and picking up your lunch box, you will take a 40-minute bus ride to Takijiri (paid locally), start of the walk. The first section of today’s walk will be a climb up to Takahara, a rural hamlet on a ridge, noted for its ancient shrine and a spectacular view over the surrounding Hatenashi Mountain Ranges. Reminders of the past, including Buddhist statues and oji shrines, line the route along the ancient highway as you climb upwards.

Leaving Takahara behind, you head further into the mountains along the old trail, past bamboo forest and then into the pencil pine. You continue to pass by reminders of the old highway, including an ichirizuka distance marker and the sites of old former tea houses, which provided rest and shelter to pilgrims up until the early 20th century. Continuing on you crest the Hashiori-Toge pass after a short climb. The trail then descends past the Three-Fold Moon viewing area from where it is a short climb to the small but famous Gyuba-doji statue. Your descent takes you along a cobbled path and staircase to Chikatsuyu, a small village and one of the few places where you can get limited supplies or drinks.

Your final stretch of the day takes you on a climb to Tsugizakura-oji and your accommodation for the evening. Nearby is a grove of giant cedar trees, some of which are reputed to be 800 years old. If Tsugizakura accommodation is full on your chosen dates or if you are travelling with a larger group, you may stay in Chikatsuyu instead on this night.

6-8 hours walking

Meals: L D

Week 2
Day 8

Today’s walk will bring you along many forest paths and eventually some mountain top villages before descending to Hongu. The walks starts with climbs over a number of passes and there is a permanent detour in place due to landslides on the main path. There are few facilities on the first part of today’s route which is through the forest before eventually leading you to the shrine at Hosshinmon-oji. You will continue through small settlements and get your first glimpse of the great Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine and the giant torii gate in the valley below.

Kumano Hongu Taisha is the main shrine in the area, to which all roads in the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage lead. A long stone staircase leads to the sacred grounds of the shrine, located on a ridge and surrounded by giant cedar and cypress trees. After looking around the impressive shrine you will jump on a local bus (paid locally) to our evening destination at nearby Yunomine Onsen or Kawayu Onsen, charming little hot spring villages.

Arriving at your overnight location is a treat for tired walkers as the steam billows from the thermal rivers and there is the promise of a relaxing onsen after your exertions. The onsen thermal hot spring baths are an important part of the Kumano Kodo traditions with pilgrims performing hot water purification rituals in preparation for visiting the shrine. For us it will be more a preparation for a delicious Japanese meal in your accommodation.

9 hours walking

Meals: B L D

Day 9

Today you can either completely relax and take in the local onsens or perhaps return to Hongu village for further explorations. If you wish to stretch your legs a little then walk back to Hongu on the Dainichi-goe route from Yunomine Onsen – this is a steep but delightful walk, passing some remarkable old carved statues at Hanakake Jizo, overgrown by tree roots.

Hongu village is home to the Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the Kumano Sanzan, three grand shrines of Kumano, and head shrine of over 3,000 Kumano shrines across Japan. Kumano was said to be the entrance gateway to the land of Yomi, the ‘other world’, which spirits travelled to in Japanese mythology. Across the Kumano Hongu Shrine is the Kumano Hongu Heritage Centre, featuring a diversity of exhibitions on the Kumano Kodo – all permanent exhibitions and videos include English translations. Just nearby the centre you will find Oyunohara, the largest torii shrine gate in the world at 34 meters tall, signifying the division of the secular and the spiritual worlds.

Be sure to also visit the tiny Tsuboyu onsen in a wooden cabin at the centre of town in Yunomine Onsen, which is the only UNESCO world heritage listed spa and the oldest in Japan at 1200 years old! The bath can be booked for a 30-minute private bathing and works on a first come first serve basis.

Meals: B D

Day 10

This morning you will take a short bus ride (paid locally) to Ukegawa to begin your walk. The Kogumotori-goe section is a fairly gentle trek with a climb and descent over a pass, and is mostly in the forested mountains with some nice ridge-walking sections.

The highlight of today’s walk is the Hyakken-gura pass, where a beautifully positioned Buddhist statue on a hilltop has a backdrop of the most spectacular views of the trip. The impressive Hyakken-gura look out surprises walkers with a lovely panoramic view of the 3600 peaks of Kumano. Take a moment to enjoy this stunning view, as pilgrims have been doing for over 1000 years.

The trail continues to rise and fall, sometimes gradual and the off time steeper when you continue towards the Sakura-jaya teahouse remains. The views from the Sakura-jaya teahouse remains down to the valley and across the mountains are impressive. It is said that when the owners of teahouses saw pilgrims approaching from far off in the distance, they would start to cook mochi rice cakes and boil water for tea, to have things ready to serve just as the pilgrims would arrive at the teahouse. From here the trail continues on a forest track and eventually descends into Koguchi, a small and isolated village surrounded by mountains and rivers.

6 hours walking

Meals: B L D

Day 11

The Ogumotori-goe is the second day of a two-day trek from the Hongu area to Kumano Nachi Taisha. It is one of the toughest sections of the Nakahechi trail and a big day’s walk so we recommend an early start as you begin with a 2.5-hour uphill climb up the Dogiri-zaka slope. Dogiri-zaka can be directly translated as “Body Breaking Slope”, and is an appropriate name for this 5km uphill section that rises 800 metres to the Echizen-toge Pass.

Afterwards you pass the Jizo-jaya teahouse remains to the Moja-no-Deai, ‘Abode of the Dead’. It is believed that the souls of the dead gravitate to these higher mountains, where spirits inhabit this section of the trail. The walk continues through forest and along ridges, the path ascending and descending, until at Funami Toge pass the Pacific Ocean spreads out before you.

From here the trail descends to the Nachisan sanctuary and the brightly colored Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine, another of the three grand shrines of Kumano. Also nearby is the wonderful wooden Seiganto-ji temple and the spectacular Nachi-no-Otaki waterfall, which is the highest in Japan and can be seen from far out on the Pacific Ocean. Tonight you will either overnight in Nachisan near the Kumano Nachi shrine or Kii Katsuura, a small fishing village approximately 20 minute bus ride from Nachisan. Relax and enjoy the completion of your extraordinary Kumano Kodo walk!

7 hours walking

Meals: B L D

Day 12

Today enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then transfer by train to your onwards destination. Train tickets are not included and can be purchased locally at the Kii-Katsuura train station.

Meals: B

Important Note: The Kumano Kodo is a popular walk and at certain times of year and guesthouses/hotels sometimes get fully booked. This itinerary is a guide to a possible route. Details may change and the actual accommodations booked may vary from what is written here, dependent on client numbers, wishes and availability. This adjustment with accommodations may alter the exact distance walked in a day so the above itinerary should be used as an indication only to overnight stops/distances.


What you get

  • 3nts accommodation in Kyoto (western-style hotel)
  • Private orientation meeting in Kyoto (for Kyoto visit)
  • 2 nights in a Buddhist monastery in Koyasan (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • 1 night in Kii-Tanabe (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • 5 nights in traditional Japanese guesthouses (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • Daily meals included as listed in the itinerary
  • Luggage transfers on the Kumano Kodo on all trekking days
  • Briefing in Kii-Tanabe at the start of your walk
  • Bus ticket from Koyasan to Kii-Tanabe *
  • Pre-departure pack including Kumano Kodo guidebook,  detailed notes, luggage tags and RAW Travel buff (1 pack for 2 people travelling together)

*Please note: the Koyasan to Kumano Kodo access bus doesn’t operate from 1 December to 31 March. Please discuss the alternative option with your consultant.

  • Local bus tickets (except Koyasan to Kii-Tanabe)
  • Train tickets
  • Flights to/from destination
  • Travel insurance
  • Single supplement
  • Beverages other than water at meals
  • Expenses and items of a personal nature
Added Extras

Flights, tours, rail passes, other extras/packages


Exclusive Guide


Japan’s ancient Kumano Kodo trails are nestled in the verdant mountains of the southern part of the beautiful Kii Peninsula, just south of Osaka. This lush and rugged area has been considered the abode of the gods and worshipped for centuries.

Our destination guide is bursting with all you need to know about walking the sacred Nakahechi pilgrimage route, the most popular and accessible of all the routes. You’ll love the peacefulness and tranquillity of the trail, the food (so elegant and refined!), the onsens (a cherished Japanese ritual), and the traditional family run guesthouses, full of character and charm.

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TRIP date selection

when would you like to travel?

Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed


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